Monday, April 9, 2012

A Reluctant Queen: The Love Story of Esther by Joan Wolf

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: April 4, 2012

You've read it as a biblical tale of courage. Experience it anew as a heart-stirring love story. She was a simple girl faced with an impossible choice. He was a magnificent king with a lonely heart. Their love was the divine surprise that changed the course of history. The beloved story of Esther springs to fresh life in this inspired novel that vibrates with mystery, intrigue, and romance.

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There is something to be said for an author who can craft a fleshed out composition from a simple Bible story. The bare bones are provided before pen meets paper but it takes real finesse to create something unique from something so well known. Joan Wolf displays such a talent with A Reluctant Queen: The Love Story of Esther. 

I’ve been hesitant with inspired fiction lately. To be completely honest I’ve burnt out on getting preached at. That being the case I was very pleased with what Wolf put together. I couldn’t help but be impressed with the subtly in which Wolf balanced religion with good old fashioned storytelling. The subject matter may be more attractive to those interested in faith based literature, but the restraint exhibited by the author in terms of an inspirational message ensures the book has much wider appeal. 

For all that I praise the narrative, I can’t say I truly appreciate the characters. The entire cast is well-rounded, fully-developed, multi-dimensional, etc. and so forth. Problem is I really didn’t like any of them. Good storytellers create believable characters, great storytellers create memorable ones. No offense meant but the cast of A Reluctant Queen fell just a bit short.

Adding to my concerns is the general pacing of the story. Wolf has no problem incorporating events from the original story but the gaps between are less polished, notably so in fact. I know Wolf is capable; she gave dimension and depth to her players. By comparison I can’t help feeling the story itself received only half as much attention. 

Lastly, realize the book doesn’t adhere to the well-known version of events. I can see where this might bother some readers though I can’t say I fall in with that particular crowd. There is nothing wrong with a little creative license so long as the essence of the story remains unaltered. Wolf has clearly stepped off the beaten path but that in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

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In her heart, Esther was terrified that Muran and Hegai were right. The king had shown more interest in her than any of the other girls. What would she do if he chose her? What would it mean, having to marry the Great King of Persia and spend the rest of her life imprisoned in this place?
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